Stress and the Workplace

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Published:  February 8, 2016, Copyright (c) Sandy Elrick

This topic has come up recently in discussions with peers and with family.  It appears that with the continued progress of understanding mental disorders, we are finally beginning to recognize the true cost of stress on human beings and on business.  As a Generation X adult, I see this cost has been hidden and paid for by each and every one of us who has had a job and endured bullying, social isolation, financial isolation, racism, sexism, ageism, overt political correctness, and a host of other impacts.

I have experienced a number of these myself – burn out, verbal assault, and physically threatened.  What I have been able to understand through my time away from the job is how much these actions have had an effect on me.  I have learned from those times – something that apparently is beginning to become more useful in dealing with both the preventing and correcting of bad behaviours.  Businesses are now coming to terms that the human cost and that it can escalate and impact a business if they do not pay attention.

What I believe is that these behaviours are endemic in our society and we must seek to turn them away before they do more damage.  We are all responsible for fixing this.  This takes a lot of effort and must come from above if it is to be corrected within any organization.  The true cost to organizations and individuals is likely staggering.  Where to start?


Reason to Change


This seems like the most obvious thing to consider – why should we do this?  From an individual standpoint we can see the signs everywhere.  We are sick, obese, prematurely lacking in mental faculty as we age, and chasing things that really do little to bring us closer together and advancing our cultures.  Our priorities are in question, consumption is rampant, and financial needs are skyrocketing.  Our society could be considered in flux.  A sweeping generalization but we must remember that not all is bad and not all are at risk.

From a company perspective, anything that impacts delivery of the results it requires to stay in business, reduces the overall efficacy of the business and detracts from the goals set forth.  When you look at this from a human perspective – in traditional human resources parlance – do your best to help the individual in need and at the end of that help, you have to consider the business first and foremost.  Consider how much of the stress that is generated at work goes unreported, underreported, and unacknowledged?  I don’t mean to take things to a logical extreme but that balance has to be acknowledged.

Ultimately, both business and individuals can benefit from the change.  So consider what this means.  This comes down to values and conscience.  What or whom do we value and to what degree (if any – remember psychopathy) does what is happening bother us?  Are we aware of the conscious living going on around us?


Value of Change


Every individual contributes to problems and to solutions – within their own lives and those they interact with.  Our culture is under stress from external sources and internal sources.  Our businesses and their cultures are under duress from the same factors.  Our strengths are what make us resolute and respond accordingly.  While individuals can help resolve issues themselves and to some degree with others, larger and more meaningful change will come from those in leadership roles within the cultures and organizations that exist.

Priority and benefit cannot be understated.  We now face impacts that have overwhelming ability to warp our culture and change what we value (at a speed never seen before in human existence).  We need to be more cautious but we should also consider the positive things we have done in the past that worked.  Should we not embrace those who seek to change and improve?

Consider that Alberta and Albertans sit at a crossroads.  Under incredible pressures (like the ones I mentioned in the opening paragraph – bullying anyone? name calling?).  I remember reading an article about British Columbia’s new renewable power bonanza.  It basically called Albertans addicts (to coal power) – not a nice thing to say.  Our core values are under question, our core existence is compromised, and our responses are continuing to define us.  Good news!  A couple of our core values are persistence and drive.  We can look at all of the negativity and respond in kind or we can ‘suck it up’ and grow.  No one needs to coddle us and no one needs to show us what to do.  We already know what to do.  That being said, we have our pride and a great way of life that is not defined by one single thing.


Will for Change


So what will you advocate for?  Will you advocate for yourself?  Your loved ones?  Your neighbour or co-worker?  Will you stand up for positive change with gusto and energy?  Solemn questions we now face and others as well.  What you can begin to realize is that this is really nothing new.  What we need to do is choose a better path, one step at a time.  That choice means change that is meaningful and benefits more than just yourself.  Your sense of community is powerful.  We lift each other up.

Until we take those challenges on, we will be static and unchanging.  I think I was encouraged by reading that Generation Y adults are taking the world by storm – not tolerating negativity, learning to value themselves, and hopefully building communities that reflect better values.  I enjoy this perspective and hope to embrace these aspects more and more.  There is hope for our culture, communities, and people.

Healing begins with yourself.  Have the will to engage in conversation and be honest.  Whether you believe it or not, you are capable of more and can surpass any challenge – be it health, mental wellness, stress, work, etc.  We can be sorry but we cannot be complacent.  We need to start working towards a better future.  I choose to learn from those who are willing and able to assist me and in turn I will choose to pay it forward.